“The joke around here is that Elliott is the shepherd and I am the leper!”  Ethan declared rather gleefully one Sunday morning.

I have pondered that statement over the past few months in light of Ethan’s declarative email telling us that we were to leave the church and the above statement alone reveals a great deal about the abuse that I suffered in the church.

Elliott, the senior pastor and older brother to Ethan (who is also a pastor in the church), is always to be seen as the shepherd – lovingly tending the sheep, leading them beside the still waters, restoring their souls.  So, when Ethan (for reasons still not completely known to me, but I can surmise based on the email exchange Ethan had with my husband on that fateful day) determined that I was not to be involved in the worship ministry any longer, as the “shepherd,” I have concluded that he couldn’t deliver the news himself. Instead, he arranged for others to hold a meeting in which they berated me.

When I then sent an email to Elliot explaining how I had been misled about the purpose of the meeting as well as how hurt I had been, I was ignored.  Elliott could not tell me the truth of his involvement behind the scenes, nor could he step in and help correct the wrong that had been done since he was behind it, and so it was better to not even acknowledge my communication.

I believe it was Elliot, too, who was the impetus behind the decision to tell me not to attend a Spiritual Gifts class because I “wouldn’t be using [my] gift of music in the church.”   Again, Elliot had to be seen as the shepherd, so apparently this staff member was assigned to call me – to be the “leper” – the person whom I would potentially blame for judging and condemning me.  After she confirmed to me that Elliott was aware of the conversation she was having with me, I again emailed him and asked for help, but he didn’t respond.

And the day the staff member caught me on the sidewalk to tell me I could do nothing in the church except attend services? He, too, must have been assigned “leper duty.”  As I questioned this man repeatedly about why I was being judged, condemned, and ostracized, he included Elliott in the names of those involved in that decision and was adamant that he could not reveal to me what I had done to deserve such punishment.

What kind of pastor allows such harsh treatment of a member of his church without ensuring that scripture is followed – and, in this case, that denominational guidelines have been followed, as well?  What kind of pastor ignores the repeated pleas for help of one so obviously being wounded by those under his authority?  What kind of pastor turns a blind eye and deaf ear to the cries for grace and mercy?

The only plausible explanation is that he was behind it all.  He could not step in and help.  He could not respond to my requests for him to intercede on my behalf.  He could not because he was the catalyst.  The “lepers” were assigned to carry out his wishes in such a way that he would not be implicated – so that he would continue to be seen as the shepherd, watching over his flock.

I don’t think he counted on me staying.  I think he thought if I was told I couldn’t participate in worship, I would leave.  Most people would have.  I think he thought I would leave when I was told I couldn’t do anything.  Most people would have.

I don’t think he counted on me living what I believe.  Giving grace when I wasn’t receiving it.  Turning the other cheek.  Heaping burning coals.

Sadly, I counted on him to live what I believe.  Instead, he lives what he believes.  And that doesn’t include grace.

At least not for me.


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